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ARGEMONE  MEXICANA                                                 59T

Cases of accidental poisoning have occurred among children from eating the leaves
or berries which are bright red and succulent.

The other arum varieties are Amorphophallus Campannalatus (Surcm) and Arum
Colocasia (Kachu).


This is a large plant belonging to N.O. Amaryllideae and much cultivated in Indian
gardens. Its root and leaves are used as substitutes for ipecacuanha, and produce vesi-
cation if applied externally. They cause irritant symptoms if administered internally in
large doses.


This is an American herbaceous annual belonging to N.O. Papaveracese, "but now
growing wild in the cold season all over India. It is called Sialkanta in Bengal and
North India, Darudi or Satyanashi in Gujarat and Darwin in Maharashtra. It has
sessile, spiny, oblong leaves and produces yellow flowers. It has prickly, oblong or
elliptic capsules containing numerous spherical seeds which resemble black mustard
seeds. The extract of the whole plant contains two alkaloids, viz. berberine and proto-
pine. The seeds are poisonous, and when taken internally produce oedema of the legs,
breathlessness, slight enlargement of the liver and occasionally diarrhoea. Meaker^i
reports cases of poisoning followed by four deaths, occurring among farm labourers, who
ate bread made from wheat flour contaminated with the seeds of Argemone mexicana.

The oil expressed from the seeds is known as argemone oil (katkar oil), and is used
occasionally as an adulterant of mustard oil. The oil contains two alkaloids, sangui-
narine and dihydrosanguinarine, the former being more toxic than the latter, and con-
tains about 40 per cent free glycerides of fatty acids. The oil is a valuable remedy as
an aperient in 30 to 60 minims,62 and is also used for the treatment of skin diseases, such
as scabies and eczema. In larger doses it acts as an irritant giving rise to epidemic
dropsy, which causes vomiting, diarrhoea and cedema of the lower extremities. Sarkar63
reports an outbreak of poisoning among the members of three families from the use of
mustard oil adulterated with this oil. The earliest symptoms were excessive spitting and
vomiting, which were followed by disturbance of the bowels and gradual cedema of the
feet and legs. Twenty-four days later the symptoms complained of were intense pain
all over the body, fever upto 101 °F., profuse diarrhoea in some cases and constipation in
others, and cedema of the lower extremities. Recovery was very slow. In the case of
two girls who smeared the oil over their heads, the scalp was found to be inflamed with
a burning sensation on the head on the same night, and later there was marked falling
off of the hair.

In the year 1953 the members of several families in Nadiad (Gujarat) suffered
chiefly from vomiting, diarrhcea, and cedema of the lower extremities. On investigation
it was found that they suffered from epidemic dropsy due to the use of edible oils, such
as sessame oil and arachis oil, which were adulterated on a large scale with argemone
(darudi) oil.

Detection.—The oil is pale yellow, clear and limpid, and mixed with an equal
volume of nitric acid, assumes a crimson colour. A. K. Sen64 mentions the following
additional tests for the detection of the oil: —

1.   If 1 ml. of glacial acetic acid and 2 rnls. of cupric acetate solution are added to
5 mis. of argemone oil contained in a test tube and boiled in a water bath for 15 minutes,
a greenish discoloration will occur.

2.   Two millimetres of strong hydrochloric acid are added iio 4 mis. of argemone oil
and are warmed in a boiling water bath for 4 to 5 minutes after they are shaken and
mixed thoroughly.   One millilitre of ferric chloride solution (prepared by dissolving 10 g.
of fresh ferric chloride in 10 mis.  of  concentrated hydrochloric  acid and 90 mis,  of
distilled water)  is then added, mixed and heated in a water bath for 10 minutes.    A
precipitate of reddish-brown, acicular or needle-shaped crystals will occur.

3.   Chakravarti et Al have devised the following test65 : —

Filter part of the suspected mustard oil. Mix 2 cc. of the filtered oil with an equal
volume of ether in a test tube, gently shake it and add 0.3 cc. of hydrochloric acid
reagent (made by adding 2 volumes of concentrated hydrochloric acid diluted with 1

61.   South African Med. Jour., Vol. 24, May 6, 1950, p. 331; Ind. Med. Gaz., June 1951,
p. 280.

62.   Chopra, Indigenous Drugs of India, 1933, p. 287.

63.   Ind. Med. Gaz., Feb: 1926, p. 62.

64.   Ind. Med, Gaz., March 1946, p. 126.

65.   Ind. Med. Gaz., Aug. 1950, p. 344.